Study: Fresh Fruits and Veggies Are Prescription for Health

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 04/05/2013 - 02:33


Washtenaw County Public Health is pleased to release results of its two-year Prescription for Health Program. With funding from the Kresge Foundation, Washtenaw County Public Health led a partnership of local health clinics and farmers’ markets. Participating health providers wrote “prescriptions” for their low-income patients to eat more fruits and vegetables. Patients redeemed their prescriptions at local farmers’ markets where they purchased fresh produce and consulted with Public Health’s registered dietitian. Each year of the two-year program, patients reported increasing their fruit and vegetable intake by nearly one cup per day from pre- to post-program.

“Prescription for Health is a great example of collaborative efforts producing positive outcomes,” says Richard Fleece, Health Officer. “Residents purchase fresh, healthy foods from local markets; clinics offer realistic options for eating healthier; and multiple partners that would not normally come together work effectively on a project that benefits the community.”

Over 870 patients from health clinics serving low-income residents participated. Both years of the program, participants interviewed post-program reported eating significantly more fruits and vegetables than they reported eating pre-program.

Among participants working to manage a chronic illness, the vast majority (96%) said that participating in the program helped them manage their health condition(s) better. Many also noted positive health changes such as weight loss, increased physical activity, healthier eating habits and lower blood pressure or improved blood sugar levels. A 2012 participant said of her experience: “I have been getting vegetables on my kids’ plates. [It] stems from coming to the farmers’ market. It wasn’t an everyday thing prior to that.”

Participating clinic staff reported that the program was easy to administer and personally rewarding. Clinic partners appreciated the ability to provide “tangible” access to healthy food and to help address the nutritional needs of their most vulnerable patients: “[It] is a good opportunity to start talking about weight loss, mental health and the many other benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. It’s a gateway.”

Local farmers’ markets reported increases in revenue and said the program helped bring new customers to the market. Both years of the program, most participants said they would likely visit the farmers’ market again (98%).

Prescription for Health partners include:

·         Chelsea Bushel Basket Farmers’ Market

·         Corner Health Center

·         Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market (run by Growing Hope)

·         Faith In Action

·         Food Gatherers

·         Hope Clinic

·         Neighborhood Family Health Center

·         New Hope Outreach Clinic

·         Packard Health

·         U of M Chelsea Family Practice

·         Westside Farmers’ Market


More information about the Prescription for Health Program is available

The Kresge Foundation is a $3.1 billion private, national foundation headquartered in Troy, Michigan. More is available at

Washtenaw County Public Health promotes health and works to prevent disease or injury in our community. Visit us online at

(This news release was issued by Washtenaw County Public Health)


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